Austin Butler on Saint Laurent, Old Hollywood fits and finding the perfect T-shirt

“For years it’s been pretty non-stop, so I’m having a little break,” Austin Butler told GQ recently in Manhattan, just after being unveiled as the face of Saint Laurent MYSLF, their first men’s fragrance since 2017. “I’ve been acting for almost 20 years now. For so long, I had these dreams. Now so many of them have come to fruition.”

In a short space of time Butler has gone from a sort-of known Disney channel kid to one Hollywood’s most recognisable, picking up the title of one of its best-dressed along the way, too. The Elvis actor, who will also have a lead role in the Dune follow-up next year, sticks to a slick style formula that works, relying on old Hollywood glamour when taking to the red carpet. There’s big Celine suits that pair well with his partner Kaia Gerber’s Celine dresses. There’s Alexander McQueen tuxedos that show off his six-foot frame. And there’s Saint Laurent’s translucent shirts that get the attention of onlookers. While much of young Hollywood can only look as far back as Y2K and low-slung denim, Butler is harking back to the style of men from a bygone era. “When I was a teenager I remember comparing myself to other young actors. At a certain point, I realised that it was better to seek inspiration from the titans,” he says. “Whether that’s Jack Nicholson, De Niro or whoever, and see them as the North Star. Paul Newman in Venice in a tuxedo is hard to beat. Young Redford wearing his cowboy boots and a particular fit of jeans. Serge Gainsbourg in the garden or out at an event. No one has looked more relaxed in a suit.”

Butler citing Gainsbourg as a major style inspiration is apt, given the French musician and style icon is who Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccerello has named as a key inspiration for his recent collections. More broadly, Butler’s appointment as the latest YSL face is a perfect fit, and not least because he wears their draped blouses, silk shirts and sharply tailored suits so well. “I’m all about the cut,” he says. “I can’t wear things, even T-shirts, unless they’re in the perfect place for me. It’ll be just a fraction of an inch that needs changing, but I have to get my tees customised if they aren’t right.”

With acting on hold – both because he wanted a break after four years of dedicated work for Elvis, and more recently because of the Hollywood strikes – Butler has been living life away from red carpets and film sets. “I’m doing nothing right now,” he admits. But doing nothing suits him. He’s perfected an off-duty sense of style that includes Carhartt chore jackets, Dickies slacks, and plenty of fitted white tees. Thrown in there is also the odd pair of Adidas sweatpants and matching Gazelles. “For a long time I didn’t wear sneakers,” he tells me. “I was sent these Gucci and Adidas sneakers recently and I thought I wouldn’t wear them, but then I tried them on and they were so comfortable. With a nice pair of slacks, these could work. That’s a recent evolution for me as I used to only wear boots. I now love sneakers.”

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